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Editor's Note 4: The Tale Of The Two V8 SUVs

Driving the XM and SQ8 consecutively made me nostalgic about V8s...
James Wong
James Wong
12 Jul 2023
Let’s keep the 8-cylinder engines a little longer please, or at least 6. And we’d all be better for it.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to drive the BMW XM and the Audi SQ8 back-to-back.

The XM is equipped with the familiar BMW M 4.4-litre V8 that we also see in the BMW M5 and M6, albeit with a plug-in hybrid system. The SQ8, on the other hand, has the 4.0-litre V8 that also does duty in a great number of top drawer sports cars, including the RS Q8, Cayenne Turbo and Lamborghini Urus. Both are twin turbocharged and have their turbos located in the middle of the cylinder banks - also known as a ‘Hot Vee’ configuration.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate that, in 2023, we still have the chance to savour big displacement V8 engines (big at least in today’s context), despite the relentless onset of electrification. Seeing my son giggle and say ‘wow, so cool!’ while I wring out the V8s are priceless. It won’t last long though, at least not for new cars. Already, we can only find these V8s very rarely in mainstream body styles (saloon, SUV, etc) and they are now reserved for the top of the family tree like these two aforementioned SUVs.

The benefits of 8-cylinders are plain to see (or feel) - the most important of which is the exhaust note. Both cars sound menacing and properly aggro, as it should be for a large imposing SUV. In particular, the SQ8 has a more natural-sounding tone overall which makes it more authentic and a little more old school.

The other is the effortless power. These engines, even without their turbos, are well endowed enough to give plenty of fun. Arguably, they may feel even better without their turbos, but that’s a story for another day. Yes, EVs are also mostly effortless, but it’s not how much but rather how power is delivered. There’s a distinct difference that I fear our children would be able to recognise less and less.

And of course, one has to mention the epic fuel consumption. This is where the XM did far better with its PHEV drivetrain. I suppose having a PHEV system does help to justify running a V8 in the future of ever stricter regulations, and I don’t quite mind it. It certainly didn’t seem to weigh on the XM’s handling one bit, although I am sure it has added quite a bit more weight overall.

Let’s keep the 8-cylinder engines a little longer please, or at least 6. And we’d all be better for it.

Photos by New Gen Marketing


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